More Americans Worse Off Financially Than a Year Ago

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If the general U.S. economy has improved over the past year, most Americans have not seen its benefits, at least based on their personal experiences, according to new data from Gallup. The news is something of a surprise since GDP improvement has picked up and unemployment declined.

According to the research firm’s findings on the financial situation of Americans:

More Americans, 42%, say they are financially worse off now than they were a year ago, reversing the lower levels found over the past two years. Just more than a third of Americans say their financial situation has improved from a year ago.

It may be that stagnant wages, the number of Americans who cannot find full-time jobs with benefits and the huge pool of long-term unemployed have eroded the impressions that the overall economy has improved. However, if these are the case, the Gallup data show that many people do not view the situations as permanent. The new research report shows:

While many Americans say the past year was a financial dud, a majority (55%) predict that at this time next year they will be financially better off. Optimism about the future may still be the predominant feeling, but the overall positivity of the nation’s personal financial predictions appears to be easing, compared with the average during the past decade.

The elements that fuel the improved outlook remain fragile. Benefits to the long-term unemployed have not been extended in many cases. If Congress does no act on the problem by the end of this year, millions of out-of-work people will be without any government financial aid at all.

If one of the cores of American financial optimism is home prices, because they are so critical to the net worths of millions of people, a flattening of the housing recovery could be coming. Certainly a great deal of data show the improvement has slowed. As interest rates rise, and along with them mortgage rates, the turnaround may even reverse.

Experts continue to claim that the U.S. economic recovery is fragile. Apparently the reality of that has not been lost on most Americans.